DETECTIVES from the PSNI’s Major Investigation Team have have arrested a man today over the murder of Kevin McGuigan.
On Saturday, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said PIRA remained intact but he had no evidence that its leadership sanctioned the murder of the 53-year-old in the Short Strand district almost two weeks ago.
In a statement today, Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: “Recent developments are of considerable concern but what we need to do now is establish all the current facts and that is what is happening in the rigorous investigation being carried out by the PSNI.
“As was clear from what the Chief Constable said at the weekend there are no simplistic answers about the continued existence of PIRA.
“To simply say PIRA continues to exist as if nothing has changed would be quite wrong. To be blunt, making organisational judgements is complicated by the fact that many, if not all, members of PIRA were members of Sinn Féin.
“The information available to me is consistent with the reports of the Independent Monitoring Commission.
“These said PIRA remained on an exclusively political path, the so-called ‘military’ departments had been disbanded and the former terrorist capability had been lost, the organisation was not involved in illegal activity, although contrary to instructions and for personal gain some individual members were.”
Ms Fitzgerald said this mirrors what gardaí have said about the activities of the PIRA in the Republic.
The minister said “one of the issues which will be taken into account is what the PSNI have been learning about any PIRA structures as a result of that investigation”.
She added: “There is no doubt that people who have been associated with PIRA have been – and continue to be – involved in the most serious crime and neither Gerry Adams nor Sinn Féin can wash their hands of responsibility for that. It is an inevitable legacy of the brutal campaign which PIRA waged.”
Meanwhile, the Republic’s Deputy Prime Minister (Tánaiste) Joan Burton has said it is clear that communities continue to be at risk from an organisation linked to “murder and racketeering”.
Ms Burton said Sinn Féin could not deny all knowledge of IRA criminality or its existence.
In a statement, she said: “While I accept the assessments of the PSNI and the Garda that the Provisional IRA is no longer involved in terrorist activity, that is of little comfort given that members of the organisation are clearly involved in serious criminality.
“In that respect, while everyone acknowledges that Northern Ireland no longer faces the kind of paramilitary threat that the IRA once posed, its communities are still at risk from an organisation linked to murder and racketeering.
“This is an insidious threat to Northern Ireland’s future as a healthy, stable democracy, and therefore a threat to the whole of this island.
“It is therefore not good enough for Sinn Féin to deny all knowledge of Provisional IRA criminality and pretend it simply doesn’t exist.
“And it’s particularly reprehensible for Gerry Adams to be triumphalist about the IRA supposedly remaining ‘undefeated’ while communities suffer from continued criminality at the hands of members of the organisation.”
Mr Adams, Sinn Féin’s president, has said the killings of Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison and of Mr McGuigan were wrong.
He said those involved did not represent republicanism, were not in the IRA and that the IRA had gone away.
Northern Secretary Teresa Villiers yesterday said she was not surprised by police beliefs that the IRA still existed.
But she added that there was no evidence of IRA paramilitary or terrorist activities.
The DUP is due to meet Ms Villiers today to discuss the political consequences of the murder of Mr McGuigan.
The UUP has said that leaving the Stormont Executive was an option it would consider over the next two days.
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said the governments on both sides of the border seem to be implicitly accepting the existence of the IRA.
He said by saying it does not exist in the way it did in the past they are almost condoning it.